More than Pawns of Russia

sikorski081309.jpgRadoslaw Sikorski writes in Europe’s World on the Eastern Partnership initiative:

The EaP also has an important political aspect: it shows partner countries attractive development prospects and offers them the opportunity to make the strategic choice of adopting a pro-European orientation. The EaP highlights the empowerment of these countries by treating them as independent entities and not pawns that are organically linked to Russia.

Russia remains a strategic partner of the EU and one of the essential pillars of the European political architecture. Hopefully, we will in the foreseeable future manage to negotiate a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia that will be a realistic foundation for a future European-Russian alliance. Changed and constantly changing Russia is still seeking its own partnership formula with Europe and with other leading international actors, while at the same time trying to define its place in today’s dynamically developing world. As part of that search, our Russian partners at times resort to instruments and formulas from the past, although doing so tends to reflect their helplessness and their problems with adapting to new realities. Although we in the EU may refuse to accept certain Russian actions, we should, nevertheless judge them in the context of Russia’s ambitions and against the traumatic background of recent Russian history. Most important of all, we should look at them in the context of a not so distant future in which would be hard to imagine a Russia that is not in Europe and of Europe.

If we see Russia’s future as being inpartnership with the European Union, we cannot deny the same prospectto the people of the countries that make up the joint neighbourhoods ofboth. It would be a poor solution for the EU and Russia to be separatedby a region whose contacts with Europe are less substantial than thoseit has with Russia. That is why I am convinced that the faster weintegrate the states of eastern Europe and the south Caucasus with theEU, the more likely it will be that Russia itself adopts a pro-Europeanorientation. Russia has vast potential, but we learned during lastAugust’s conflict in South Ossetia and the gas crisis in January, it isa potential that can be used to the detriment of Europe’s economicstability and its security. The Eastern Partnership, with Russiaencouraged to participate in its multilateral projects on acase-by-case basis, would open the way to the gradual convergence ofthe western and eastern parts of Europe.